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Thursday, September 30, 2004


Dancing and Jousting

Yesterday I wrote about the dance. As I thought about it i realized the dance falls on a continuum with consensual dance on one end of the scale, jousting on the other, and assorted activities in between. The continuum is therapy, the points on the continuum are the degree of cooperation between the therapist and patient or what we call the "therapeutic alliance."

Obviously it is easier to help someone who wants help. Some people are completely defiant and must be fought every inch of the way to "better." Others are oblivious and either do not or cannot participate in the treatment process. The ideal is an individual who will open their mind and consider the advice given and even give it an honest try. The person participates by asking questions and working with the therapist in a collaborative effort.

Teachers know the joy of an open and willing mind. It is much the same for a therapist. I have been reflecting about therapy. I remembered how I was focused in school to learn the classifications of mental illness. I studied the symptoms, development, medications, treatment strategies, theorists, and the rest of the academic material. When I actually began working with people I felt awkward. I was thinking too much and I was inexperienced. As time passed, I learned to simply relate to patients as people. Whatever their problem, they were people. Mental illness was only one aspect of them. I had much more in common with them than I had different.

Our hopes, fears, and dreams were similar. We watched the same TV shows, listened to the same music, laughed at the same jokes. The academic information is important, but it must be digested and permeate the therapist so it is able to come out in helpful and human ways. Good therapy is a helpful conversation. A conversation that leaves the patient educated, in better humor, and holding more hope. Hope is the best thing I can give someone. To pass on hope, one must also possess it. Otherwise it will be sensed as false hope and empty disingenuous words.

It is all about relating. To connect with another person and to engage in a common task gives me a rush. No matter if I am trying to help a patient or talking with someone in a coffee shop - it's all good to me. People are interesting. Their lives are full of fascinating experiences. So many experiences come and go and will go unrecorded and unnoticed by most of the world. That is why I feel fortunate to learn the little secrets a person is willing to share with me.

Whether I am dancing or jousting, I am doing therapy. I keep learning and in turn I stay full of wonder and gratitude. The good hearts outnumber the a-holes 10 to 1 in my experience. Many of the a-holes just start out that way. Once they stop posturing and let down their guard they end up being the most fun.

These are just a few more rambling thoughts about therapy.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 29, 2004


The Dance

Getting to know someone is a dance. It cannot be hurried. Corners cannot be cut. Attempts to get around the dance only sabotage the original intent of closeness, intimacy, and friendship. Wine needs time to ferment, seeds grow in their own time, and the dance of personal connection must not be hurried or avoided.

Along those lines, new admissions constitute a sort of dance. Today for instance, an individual came to the hospital. At first he was quiet and only stared. It could have been mental illness, fear, anger, or a drug induced state. The quiet ones raise my anxiety more, because I have to guess what is going on in their mind.

From silence he began to posture and threaten subtly. Our response is to give him latitude, but be ready - some lines cannot be crossed. We offer support, comfort, and encouragement, but if it is refused and met with anger, threats, and defiance, we have to respond. Gentle but firm direction was explained to him. This often escalates the situation, but some patients need the structure imposed on them, because they cannot control themselves. In a strange way, taking control brings them comfort. This individual danced to the edge of us taking control, but stepped back. His behavior stayed near the edge, but the initial pressure was released.

He continued to be elevated and wandered in and out of my office, which is on the unit. In my office, he did not recognize appropriate boundaries. He picked up things from my desk. At one point, he walked out of my office with an item. I felt he was baiting me to say something to him so he could respond. He eventually returned and flung the item back on my desk. Finally, I told him to leave my office and I would talk to him tomorrow when he was calmer. This was a critical point in the dance. I was setting a limit after allowing limits to be violated.

He looked at me after I told him to leave responding with, "F&*K you then." As he walked away I told him that I am here to help him, but I cannot help him when he behaves in this way. I told him I respected him and required similar respect. This time the dance got closer. He apologized for being an asshole. He came into my office. He said he needed help and asked if he could talk to me. I agreed. He sat down and I shut the door.

We began just talking, about school, sports, family, problems. He opened up more and more, his demeanor completely changed. His posturing was over and I gained a small measure of his trust.

Tomorrow I return to dance some more. It is interesting work.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Die Hard Chiefs Fan

I am a die-hard Kansas City Chiefs fan and this year it means I am dying hard. It has been painful. Last year the Chiefs began the year with 10 straight victories before their defense went on holiday. Visions of post season play danced in my head. They won games they should have lost, and every call went their way. The Chiefs could do no wrong. This year, they are losing games they should win. The refs seem to be against them and opposing teams play as if blessed by their own personal fairy godmother.

It is going to be a long year, but that is why we are called "die hard." I am loyal to my team. Fair weather fans just jump to another team, usually whoever is winning. For me, there is no glory in that approach. For a die-hard fan, the victories are sweeter, but the defeats are harder kicks to the groin. Oh the pain of it all.

Well, 0 and 3 is not so bad. They can still salvage the season. Yeah, that's the ticket, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, who am I fooling, we're doomed. I think I have a little Charlie Brown in me.

So here's to the Boston Red Sox fans and The Chicago Cubs fans. We all drink from the same cup of disappointment each year, but someday it will be sweet victory.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 27, 2004


I Met My First Blogger

Have you met a blogger before? Saturday night I met Riri (Irina) of Riri's Brain Dump in New Orleans. She was visiting New Orleans from Toronto, so Barbara and I with our friends the Murphy's met her at her hotel and took her on a nickel tour of the French Quarter. We had the usual fun and Riri is a very nice person. There were no surprises there. I felt like we had already met, and I suppose we already had. Blogging never ceases to amaze me. The writing helps me learn about myself. The comments and other blogs help me learn about and meet other people. My world has expanded, but the world seems smaller.

John and Riri at her hotel
John and Riri outside her hotel.

Riri just before digging into her shrimp sandwich
Sampling the good food of New Orleans -shrimp, ummmm.

Eating a shrimp sandwich
Will it fit?

Riri wears a mask
This one's nice.

Faye, Barbara, and Riri wearing masks
Faye, Barbara (John's wife), and Riri.

Riri spinning a boa
She's done this before - reminds me of Becky's 50th.

Riri talks with Faye
Riri talking with Faye, a new friend.

We had fun and it was nice to meet Riri in person. Her blog will be even more interesting to me now. If you get a chance to meet another blogger, my advice is - do it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 25, 2004


The Great Wake Up Race

Today was the eighth annual Great Wake Up Race, which is sponsored by our State Psychiatric Hospital. The weather was perfect. It was sunny and clear with temperatures in the low 70's. The 5K course wound through the quaint streets of Abita Springs, LA and finished on the Tammany Trace, which is a rails to trails project.

I exceeded my own goal by running a 21:03 translating to a 6:47 pace for the 3.1 miles. I finished 4th overall out of about 100 runners and second in my age group. Barbara walked the race and my friends Marty and Cindy also ran the race.

One of the best things about races is you get to drink beer at 9 AM without being looked at funny. Here are a few photos from the event:

Barbara crosses the finish line
Barbara crosses the finish line
Cindy, Marty, Barbara, and John after the race
Cindy, Marty, Barbara, and John after the race
Marty and Cindy pose after the race
Marty and Cindy pose after the race
John just after his arrest - just kidding
John just after his arrest - Just kidding

Now it's off to the yard work.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 24, 2004


Jack LaLanne

jack LaLanneJack LaLanne will be 90 September 26. He pioneered exercise and fitness by bringing exercise to television. I remember my mother exercising to the Jack LaLanne show when I was a little kid in the early 60's. She even sent off for the blue rubber exercise thing he used on his show. It seems like I got into trouble for hitting my sister with it. ESPN Classic still airs his shows in the AM. I admire a person who has a passion and pours their life into it. Jack is one such individual.

Do you remember Jack LaLanne.

Happy birthday Jack. You are an inspiration to me.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 23, 2004



Living in the south, I have heard the term cracker occasionally. It is supposed to be racial and derogatory now, but its origin was descriptive. Apparently, cracker is synonymous with cowboy. It refers to the crack of the whip used in cattle and horse handling. At least, that's what they say. Nowadays, cracker is usually used with other terms. One blogger used the following string of words to describe George W. Bush supporters:
Those ignorant, cracker, hick, red-neck, rightwing, hillbilly, NASCAR-worshipping, semi-literate, bible-thumping yokels are the backbone of Bush supporters.

This guy captured the typical string of associated words to describe white, middle class, southerners dead on. Honestly, I think it is funny. When I hear such speech I crack up - I mean laugh. One point of criticism though, the writer should have capitalized the word "Bible."

Speaking of crackers, I enjoy eating peanut butter and crackers as a before dinner snack. If I weren't a cracker myself, I would have used the term appetizer, but I am semi-literate, see above. Anyway, I finished off a box of said crackers this evening and before I threw away the box, I noticed an oxymoron. Can you see it?

Cracker Box

I had to read it several times. Unsalted saltines???? If it were unsalted - then it wouldn't be a saltine now would it????

I just needed to ponder something other than the election and terrorism.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Last Chance

If you don't think social work can be difficult at times, ponder this: I am trying to help someone who was kicked out of a place called "Last Chance." How the hell am I supposed to help an individual if they blew their last chance?

This true scenario reminds me of the time I called a crisis line for a phone number. I identified myself and let them know I only needed info. I was placed on hold since it was not an emergency. The music playing in the phone was Carly Simon singing, "I haven't got time for the pain." It was a good thing I was not a suicidal individual just looking for an extra nudge to make me "do it."

That's about all I have today, just a couple of random thoughts.

Have a nice Wednesday.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 21, 2004


One Year Later, Success

I wrote a post on September 20, 2003 entitled My Mind Finally Clicked: The Last Gasp of Denial. In this post I faced what I had been denying for a long time. Well, one year later, I am happy to report success.

9/20/03 9/20/04
Weight: 214 Weight: 173
Body Fat: 24.8% Body Fat: 14.9%
Cholesterol: 236 Cholesterol: 167
Waist: 36 Waist: 33
Running: No Running: Yes

This measure of success will continue only if I keep doing the things that got me here. I initially wrote the post to create some accountability. Earlier this year, I hired a coach for even more accountability.

I am just taking a moment to admire a mile marker not cross a finish line. What I began last year was a lifestyle change. I plan to keep it up.

Here's to goals conceived and goals achieved.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 20, 2004


Barbara's Birthday Dinner

Saturday night our gang celebrated Barbara's 46th birthday at a nice local restaurant named Sal and Judy's. Whenever I eat at this place I order the veal pane. It is so good; it melts in your mouth. For a long time now, about 13 years, our gang of four couples has had some great times. We have celebrated weddings, graduations, millenniums, 50th birthdays, and life in general. We have gone to Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, New Orleans, football games, concerts, limo rides, and just gathered at each other's houses for dinner. We know each other's extended families and consider each other family members. I do not know what I would do without these good friends. It takes time to cultivate good friends; to learn the history and to develop your own history. What is life if you have no one with which to share it?

Our latest gathering was Barbara's birthday and it was a typically fun night filled with good food, libations, and laughter.

John and Barbara in the bar
John and Barbara in the bar before the meal

The boys: Claude, John, Brian, Marty
The Boys: Claude, John, Brian, Marty

The Girls: Cindy, Barbara, Faye, Judi
The Girls: Cindy, Barbara, Faye, Judi (Cindy & Marty, Barbara & John, Faye & Brian, Claude & Judi)

Barbara, the birthday girl
Barbara the birthday girl: Now in her late 40's, hehe.

Happy birthday Barbara and here's to our friends, I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 18, 2004


Northwest Florida Daily News Online

If you want to see the aftermath of a hurricane and get a better understanding of what the hurricane victims are going through, check out Northwest Florida Daily News Online. Today's paper is 40 pages and is loaded with photos and stories about individuals and their personal stories.

Hurricane Ivan Damage, Navarre Beach, Florida

I have spent a lot of time at Navarre Beach just east of Pensacola. The nice beaches are on a barrier island called Santa Rosa. This area was hard hit in 1995 with hurricane Opal and now by Ivan. Take a few moments and read about the impromptu cookouts that occur as people grill their thawing meat. There are stories of people sharing their generators, being polite in traffic, and there are stories of others taking advantage of the circumstancs. Find out the rest of the story about the 18 wheeler on the I-10 bridge.

It is a fascinating read and goes into more detail than the evening news.

God bless these folk, help them if you can.

(If you have problems with the above link, try this one: Daily News Home Page Click on "access paper." This paper is being offered free online until their delivery delays are improved.)

Until the next time
John Strain


Weekend Replay: Time

First posted October 6, 2003 Text Verson

this is an audio post - click to play

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 17, 2004


Mother Nature Puts It All In Perspective

Man has harnessed the atom and walked among the stars. He has made machines to provide water in the desert, warmth in the wintertime and coolness in summer. If it is dark, man's artificial sun can light up the sky. The vast world has shrunk as our traveling machines carry us to the farthest corners of the globe in but a few hours. Man has fashioned a lifestyle laced with luxury. We have plenty to eat and plenty to entertain us. What is more powerful than man?

Mother Nature is.

Ivan is only the latest example of her power, but those with understanding also see her sublimity and grandeur in her stillness and simplicity. Man's pride and arrogance would have him believe he is in control, but he is not. Control is an illusion only believed by fools. It is the wise man that knows he depends on God's compassion.

The Psalmist was aware of the awesome power of God through nature as he wrote in Psalm 8: 3-4
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,

Just look up at the star filled sky some evening and see how big you feel. Listen to the thundering surf on a wind swept beach and hear the awesome power of the waves. Stand on a mountaintop and listen to the wind sing its ancient song. If you do, you will know humility, you will know gratitude, and you will know your place. Our place is not to be praised, but to praise, not to be recognized, but to recognize.

We live in a wonderful world. Surrounded by beauty and wonder we should be moved to offer thanksgiving to the God who created it all. I know I am.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 16, 2004


Blue Skies

The sun is out and the sky is blue. The wind is still whipping up a bit, but not in a destructive way. I have a lot of leaves and limbs in my yard to pick up, but compared to the folks in Alabama it is hardly worth mentioning. Today begins putting things back to normal. Boards will come off of houses, people who evacuated will return, and I will pull my plants, lawn furniture, and BBQ grill out of the shed. I try to keep in mind the times that worked out for me. This is one - being missed by a hurricane. There have been plenty of times I was not so lucky, but I want to remember these times too to balance the "not so lucky times" out.

Now where was I before I was so rudely interrupted by this hurricane?

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Hurricane Party

Ivan is going to reek havoc in the Gulf Shores / Mobile, Alabama area. The photo of me on this blog is in Gulf Shores, which is on the Florida / Alabama state line. It makes me sad, because I have seen the aftermath of a hurricane first hand. I know the damage that is about to occur. There are so many condos, restaurants, and hotels. The Gulf Coast is a growing area and new construction is everywhere. Still, I am always inspired by the attitudes of the devastated. They politely share with the news reporter what they believe is really important. Standing amidst their ruin their answer is usually, life, family, and God. Then they look ahead and pledge to rebuild. It never ceases to place a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. The devastated have lost everything, yet they still give us a spiritual boost. Please help the hurricane relief efforts with some sort of financial donation.

Now, on my end, we are going to have a hurricane party. Some foolhardy people did this when Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Coast in 1969. The apartment building in which they partied was swept away by water driven by 200 mph winds - all were lost. Believe me, we are not in danger here so the party is not an expression of extremely poor judgment. That should keep my mother from worrying.

So, a few drinks await and we will sit under my carport and listen to the awesome power of the wind. They have downwardly adjusted our wind predictions. We should get winds from 35 - 50 mph with higher gusts. We should also receive little or no rain, which is unusual. Those to our east will not be so fortunate as Ivan comes ashore about 1:00 AM Thursday morning.

Thank you for the thoughts and prayers. I have noticed some new readers. Thanks for stopping by and I will be writing you soon. For the rest of you, I am behind on my reading, but intend to catch up.

Until the next time
Hurricane John


Crossing My Fingers

If the forecasters are correct, Ivan should pass to our east, which is the best-case scenario short of not getting hit at all. Our forecast calls for winds about 40 mph tonight at 8 PM going up near 60 mph by6 AM. It should be past us by 11 AM and the weather will rapidly improve.

On Tuesday, it was one of those emergency days. New Orleans was evacuating, and the interstates were in gridlock. At the hospital, we were discharging everyone we could so folks could get home and batten down the hatches. I expect we will lose power sometime this evening, but it usually comes back on within 12 to 24 hours. This is a very small inconvenience compared to the folks in the Mobile, AL area. They may take the direct hit and a category 4 hurricane is a destroyer.

I want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers. I will keep you posted.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 14, 2004



Hurricane Flags
It is only a matter of time now. I will be lashing myself to a palm tree in hopes of surviving hurricane Ivan. Schools have been closed from New Orleans to Florida. Home Depot and Lowes are sold out of plywood and batteries. Gas stations are low on fuel and grocery stores are selling out of bottled water and canned goods.

Presently, the forecasters are having a tough time. The drama won't unfold until the hurricane nears landfall. By the time they know where it will go, there will not be time to do anything by way of preparation. Therefore, folks all along the Gulf Coast have to act as though Ivan were going to hit them.

The worst-case scenario is for the hurricane to pass just to the west. Those lucky devils get the wind blowing from the water. The storm surge is greatest there. Hurricane watches have been posted for us, so within 36 hours hurricane conditions could occur.

I'll keep you posted. As far as my running is concerned, a hurricane can provide a hell of a tail wind. I may break a 3-minute mile if I work it just right.

Now where are my rope and that palm tree?

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 13, 2004


Mr Ates

Time is the subtle thief of youth -John Milton

Mr. and Mrs. Ates live in the house behind ours. They are in their 70's and have always kept their yard looking good. Saturday when I was doing yard work, Mrs. Ates was in her yard and we began talking. We talked about our yards and about the pending onslaught of falling leaves. Mr. Ates had a stroke some time back and has not been working in the yard for a long time. He was a handyman of sorts. He built a green house in their backyard and many projects remain that had his hand in them. He loved taking care of his yard, but now he is relegated to the confines of his house due to his weakened physical condition.

I always saw Mr. Ates at church. He often handed out bulletins as churchgoers entered the sanctuary. The offering usually was conducted along with his participation. Mr. Ates always smiled and held out his hand to shake.

As Mrs. Ates and I stood talking, Mr. Ates came walking our way. I guess he could not stand not being outside. He was wearing white socks and no shoes. He walked tentatively and he was a bit slumped. I spoke to him, but he did not hear me. When he looked at me, I spoke slowly and loudly. Mr. Ates returned my greeting. Mrs. Ates wanted to get him back inside so she was trying to get him redirected. Then Mr. Ates said, "I wish. . ." His voice tailed off into something illegible. We inquired what he said and he tried again. "I wish. . .I could." It was obvious; he was talking about wanting to work in the yard. He had a tear in his eye and the look of someone longing for something out of reach. He seemed so sad. I reached out to shake hands with Mr. Ates, but his right arm hung at his side. With his left hand he held out his right hand and I took his shaking hand and shook it. He turned and made his way back to his house.

There are moments when events awake a deeper understanding and this was one such circumstance. In Mr. Ates I saw a life winding down. I saw myself and I saw others who have already gone on. His decline is a pale comparison to what he once was. This is what happens to us all if we live long enough.

Therefore, we must keep our eye on that subtle thief time. Relish and savor each moment, because our time is limited. Celebrate your life and the lives around you. Extend a hand to comfort.

Here's to awareness and gratitude. May we be mindful of our ever dwindling cache of time, but may we be grateful for every second.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 11, 2004


Love, Honor, and Freedom Will Always Conquer Hate

Firemen at the cross

Girl waving flag

Note and flag

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. -John 16:33

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 10, 2004


Am I Speaking English Or What?

Thursday night after pumping some iron at the gym, Barbara and I stopped by Subway for our supper. We had to wait a really long time. Even though there were three employees in the store, only one of them was making food, and she was new. Barbara and I are patient folks, so we took the wait in stride. When it was my turn to order, I asked for a club salad. I was asked a follow up question, "what would you like on it?" My answer was, "a little of everything." The new girl proceeded to verify each item, "Do you want tomatoes?" "Bell peppers?" "Jalapenos?" "How about cucumbers?" My responses, "yes, yes, yes, and yes." I just can't say what I would like to say, "Honey, what is it about everything you don't understand?"

A long time ago at a McDonalds, I walked in and ordered a shake. My exact words were, "I would like a large chocolate shake to go." The girl behind the counter said, "what flavor of shake would you like sir?" I said, "chocolate." She continued, "What size shake would you like?" I responded, "large." Then she asked one more question, "do you want that for here or to go?" My retort, "to go." I guess you cannot answer someone's question before they ask it.

I worked in a restaurant when I was a teenager and the standards were much higher. The manager was up my ass all the time. Customer service was paramount. Today, the manager is the one screwing up along with the line workers.

I would go into drive thru horror stories, but I would run the risk of triggering my PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

It is really minor stuff, even amusing. I would like to see businesses raise the bar a little and expect more from their employees. I would like to see more people taking pride in doing their job well, whatever that job is.

It could happen. Really.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 09, 2004




Now that's what I call teamwork

There is no "I" in team
A team is greater than the sum of it's parts

It is the eve of the NFL regular season opener. Football will be in full swing this weekend and I for one am damn glad. I was getting tired of getting things done on Sunday's when I could have been sitting in my rocking chair in front of the TV yelling and cursing at people who do not even know I exist. It is funny how I can get so worked up about a game. I am sometimes so nervous about a game; I don't sleep well the night before.

Anyway, I wanted to salute the "team." Not the Chiefs or the Saints, but the concept of a team. The team is still more important than any one individual. The USA Olympic men's basketball team learned this. The 1980 USA hockey team also learned this lesson.

The concept applies to our families and our jobs. If we apply the principles of team, we can accomplish much more than if we work as a group of individuals.

Here's to the team, our vehicle to the stars.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 08, 2004



Have you ever considered how much behavior is motivated by an individual’s desire to cover his or her own ass? I submit the number of people choosing to cover their ass in lieu of doing what they really believe is fine has reached an epidemic. That's right, a person has a qualified, informed opinion regarding what needs to be done, however, they do something different to cover their ass. This CYA epidemic is costly and it gives people the run around.

Doctors order MRI's when someone complains of a headache. CYA, if the guy has a brain tumor, he will sue me.

Ridiculous safety measures are everywhere. Manufacturers must anticipate every conceivable way an idiot can hurt himself with the product.

Employees spend more time covering their ass than they do real work.

Blame. Blame avoidance. In our culture, more focus is placed on finding someone to blame than to correct a problem.

So, covering your ass instead of doing what you know to be right is a way to waste time, waste money, and provide piss poor service to people.

I am not advocating you give no concern to staying out of trouble, but I believe if you do the right thing, you won't have to cover your ass. In my profession, people are often afraid of being sued. I don't worry about being sued; instead, I apply the Mike Wallace test. That is, if I can picture myself explaining to Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes what I did and not be ashamed or embarrassed, then I am probably doing the right thing. If my reason is a CYA reason and not something rational, I would be embarrassed and ashamed.

If this is not enough, here is a story from Funpic.com:

Don't Cover Your Ass
There was an old donkey that fell down a well on a farm. The donkey cried
& Cried for the farmer to help him, but the farmer paid him no mind.

The farmer was getting tired of the constant noise the donkey was
making, so he called all the villagers to help him bury the donkey in
the well.

They started burying the donkey, but he would shake the dirt off his
back, stomp on it, and make stairs to the top, and eventually got out of
the well.

Moral: No matter how much dirt life throws on your back, shake it off
and don't let it bring you down.

Then the donkey went and kicked the farmer, and all the other villagers.

The REAL Moral of the story: Don't cover your ass 'cause it'll always
come back to get you.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 07, 2004


Doing Something About It

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

Mark Twain

Bridge by my house

Just down the street from my house is a little bridge. On one of the guardrails, someone wrote the "F" word. It has been there since we moved in 13 years ago. The first time I noticed it I think I commented about the city needing to do something about the conspicuous "F" word. Over the years, I have run by, ridden a bike past, walked by, and rode by the "F" word in a car approximately one million times - rough estimate. From time to time it would catch my eye and I would comment about someone needing to do something about it.

The conspicuous

One morning last week I walked by it while walking my friend Hobo. I thought about how many years the "F" word had been on that guardrail. The usual thought entered my mind about someone needing to do something about it, then I had another thought. Why not me? Hmmm, why not me? I could not think of why not me, so I endeavored to fix the little problem.

The conspicuous

One can of spray paint later, I was walking to the bridge armed with a wire brush, sand paper, a wet cloth, and some silver Rust-Oleum. In just a few minutes, the 13-year reign of the "F" word on our little bridge ended. I finally did something about it.

What about you and your little corner of the world? Is there something someone needs to do something about? I want to challenge you to be that someone. I want to hear about it too. I will do another post about people who did something about it.

So look around, take on a project, and then email me with the story. Together, we can make a difference when we all decide to do something about it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 06, 2004


The Handy Man Can

This holiday weekend I have been fixing things and doing things that have needed it for a long time. The vacuum cleaner's plug broke. That small task was taken care of on Saturday. Then a couple shots of WD-40 silenced the annoying squeaks of the front door and the den door. Then it was on to bigger projects. I fabricated a part out of sheet metal to fix my lawn mower deck. I won't try to explain it, but it took a while and sheet metal will cut you very quickly.

While I was working on the lawn mower, I decided to change the blade. The off brand universal blade required some filing to make it work, but it now sits poised to spin through my lawn like a Cape Verde hurricane the next time I mow.

Not long ago some clown (I don't really know what the person does for a living) ran into my mailbox post with his car. It dented the mailbox, cracked the post, and bent the newspaper box next to it. I propped them back up, but they resemble punch drunk prizefighters about to go down. Today, I will set a new post and mailbox.

After the mailbox, I will move inside to my computer workstation. I am going to install a cooling fan in the CPU cabinet. I am paranoid of heat and want to keep the equipment cool. That's why I wear vented underwear - just kidding. Anyway, I will have to do some real man stuff for this task, like measuring, sawing, drilling, electricity, cursing, but eventual success.

I have a floor lamp that needs a new switch whenever I can find one. Home Depot and Lowes don't have one so I guess I will have to go to an electrical supply store. I found a switch online, but it would wind up costing $20. I think the lamp only cost $30. I may just connect it without the switch and plug it in and unplug it to make it work. Doing that would lose the dimmer function and I want the dimmer.

My last project of the day is a surprise. I will post about it tomorrow.

Enjoy your Labor Day. I think the point is to rest, but I have work to do.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 04, 2004


Weekend Replay: Enjoying A Cup of Joe

Text Version This was originally posted July 31, 2003.

this is an audio post - click to play

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 03, 2004


Southern Decadence Festival

it is not too late to attend this Labor Day weekend's Southern Decadence Festival in New Orleans. Also known as the Gay Mardi Gras, this gay celebration brings in an estimated $95 million to the New Orleans economy.

Visit the Southern Decadence Festival website for more details.

Southern Decadence, New Orleans

This photo is an indication of what you could miss if you stay away from New Orleans this weekend.

Enough said.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 02, 2004



As if Florida did not have enough with which to deal in the aftermath of hurricane Charlie, hurricane Frances is bearing down on the other side of the state. At this point in the life of a hurricane, all eyes are on it. The news coverage is extensive, reporters fan out to capture the carnage at the site of landfall. A day or two after the hurricane, the devastation is aired and disheveled people are shown crying in close up shots. Trees are downed, roofs and houses are scattered along with the lives of the victims of the affected community. What a lot of people do not realize is how long it takes to get things back to "normal". The devastation is so vast it takes months to restore electricity and some basic services. Rebuilding takes even longer and areas hit by large hurricanes are never the same. Ancient trees, which took 250 years to grow cannot be replaced.

For these reasons and more, my heart goes out to the people of Florida who are about to experience hurricane Frances. They can use your prayers now and in the aftermath they will need your support, both spiritual and material.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 01, 2004


The Lost Post

On July 28 I took photos of my new computer center and was preparing to share them in a post. Events unfolded and in the process of moving my computer I hooked up a more powerful power supply to my USB hub effectively disabling my digital camera, hub, and scanner. Finally, the ordeal is over and after only $168 to repair the camera, everything else was replaced new at no cost to me. I have praised Canon for their customer support. The only thing I can fault them on is they sent me the wrong USB cable for my camera. Once I notified them of this, they sent me the correct one FedEx overnight.

Now where was I? Oh yes, the computer center. I have had a vision of what I wanted for some time. The furniture offerings at Office Depot and other places were not what I liked. A built in model is what I decided on and even though it was considerably more expensive, I really like the way it came out.

This first photo is of the space I had to work with. The carpet was cut out and tile was put down to set off the area and allow an office chair to roll about.

The chosen space

The next step was to go to Home Depot and purchase the cabinets. We bought cabinets matching the ones we put in the kitchen three years ago. I had a basic design roughed out and Home Depot drew the final plans. I had an installer already so I talked with him about adding more power outlets, more pone jacks, lighting above and below the cabinets, and a wall switch to control the lights.

The cabinets arrive

Voila, here is the finished product. I wound up getting a granite countertop. The installer knew a guy who knew a guy. . . You can't really see the color in this photo, but the countertop is dark green with gold flakes in the marble like finish.

The finished product

All moved in. I am still trying to figure out what to put where, but I really love the new space. I have lots of storage, more counter space, plenty of outlets, and it looks so much nicer than before. Now all I have to do is pay for all of it.

All moved in

It took some time to do all of this. If you have ever had any remodeling done, you know how little things cause delays of weeks. But that is all a memory now and I have a nice place to compute.

Until the next time
John Strain